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Archive for February, 2010

And client Penrith Panthers gets great press too 0

Posted on February 18, 2010 by Liz Rowell

Back in the big league

New emphasis … the scene at Osso Bar and Restaurant.New emphasis … the scene at Osso Bar and Restaurant.
Photo: James Alcock

Rob Woodburn
February 16, 2010

A plank laden with prime rib cuts and slices of juicy steak used to be the showpiece sampler at Osso Bar Restaurant. Now it’s the mixed entree plate of peking duck shanks, twice-cooked pork belly with black vinegar caramel and a delicious three-cheese souffle.

The adjustment in emphasis and flavours at the flagship restaurant in the new-look Penrith Panthers epitomises the food evolution under way at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Fine dining is the future at the biggest club in NSW.

Penrith Panthers has a membership of 65,000, welcomes 1.5 million visitors a year and is open 21 hours a day, year-round. On a league-season weekend, 15,000 people a day might pass through its doors. Its massive popularity, however, has not protected Panthers from hard times. Gaming is no longer the club’s biggest drawcard. Battered by the global financial crisis and bashed by tough non-smoking laws, revenue from pokies everywhere has been in decline.

Adding to this pressure, the club was without a general manager or food and beverage manager in the second half of 2009.

The club employs 350 food and beverage staff and has 18 outlets. Service was essentially rudderless and it drifted. Panthers had lost its purr.

In October, the club called in restaurant consultant Tom Rutherford to steer its food and drinks business back on course. A couple of months later, John McLean was appointed general manager. McLean had been food and beverage manager at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre for the previous five years. He’s both a chef and seasoned management executive with experience in casinos, Oberoi luxury hotels and, briefly, with Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant empire in Britain.

Panthers has spent $30 million renovating its premises, with new food venues, banquet and conference facilities and a chic alfresco bar overlooking a small lake.

As founder of the Truffle Group, Rutherford made his mark as the catering genius behind many glittering occasions including the Cointreau Ball, once Sydney’s social event of the year. Also a successful restaurateur, including Beach Road at Palm Beach, more recently he’s focused on being Mr Fix-It for troubled food and beverage businesses.

Of their Penrith task, McLean says: “I think there’s been a conscious decision that gaming has supported the club industry for so long and over the next two to five years that’s no longer going to be the case.

“Now it’s about focusing on things that people just took for granted in clubland, like food and drink.”

The mission statement is simple. “My brief is to return this club back to number one,” he says.

”It’s currently number nine in the state based on gaming revenue, which is the only benchmark so far … It’s always down to service and I believe that if you make it good enough they will come.” Of his work at Penrith, Rutherford says: “I was called in essentially to give clarity.

“I set about developing organisational strategies, redefining elements, establishing ‘best of breed’ in each section and ensuring that all the different areas work together.”

A production kitchen was re-established to provide a new range of food for each outlet. Better-quality roasts, fresh salads and more Asian-style dishes have been introduced in the ever-popular Piazza Carvery.

The social nexus of the revamped Panthers is Fluid, a large, airy indoor-outdoor bar with black leather seats overlooking a man-made lake. Ducks paddle peacefully among the reeds. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy languid pre-dinner drinks.

Tapas-style bar food is on its way and there’s the enticing prospect of a smart new restaurant beside the lake, perhaps with over-water seating.

Panarottis is a popular Italian family restaurant. The Ming offers a Chinese-Asian menu and now does yum cha on weekends. “Their Peking duck is excellent, one of the best I’ve ever had,” says the well-travelled McLean.

“Osso offers one of the best steak and ribs preparations in Sydney and is very much aligned to where we want to be: a premium dining experience. Great food and the makeover go hand-in-hand.”

Great media story about ICHP 0

Posted on February 17, 2010 by Liz Rowell

We are delighted that the MIssion Australia Inner City Housing Project got this fantastic story in today’s Telegraph. It highlights the incredible difference they are making for their clients – formerly homeless people with mental issues. Did you know it costs $900 a night to keep a mentally ill patient in a hospital bed – and just $35 a night to house someone properly in an ICHP house? Plus they get help, support and friendship every day from the ICHP counsellors, helping them to get their lives back to normal.

Read about it here……..

Better life in a house of hope

Terrace house

The lucky ones … Tim and Oliver on the front porch of their Surry Hills terrace / Pic: Justin lloyd Source: The Daily Telegraph

IT is a double-storey terrace, like many others on inner city streets. It looks like any share house occupied by three men. Yet what the facade doesn’t reveal are the hardships of these men who only months ago yearned to have four walls and a roof – a place to call home.

This is a house full of hope, spirit and mateship. There is nothing fancy, just the bare minimum – like the men who live there. How they came to be in the house is a stroke of luck.

All were suffering from mental illness, desperate and in serious danger of hurting themselves or others.

They had been living on the streets, sleeping on mates’ couches until they had worn their welcome out.

In a mental psychosis, each landed at St Vincent’s Hospital emergency department where, instead of turning them away to join the vicious cycle of crisis accommodation, hospital psych wards and homelessness, they were referred to a housing program.

Run by Mission Australia, The Inner City Housing Program has six properties around the city.

There are 27,000 homeless in NSW. But the program can only help 27 a year.

Oliver is one of the lucky ones. A year ago, the 38-year-old was calling the streets of Woolloomooloo home.

Suffering a mental illness and with drug and alcohol addictions, Oliver had nowhere to turn.

“I had been living down at Woolloomooloo with about 60 others and it was great, especially in summer,” he said. “Then one day I looked in the mirror. I hadn’t shaved for six months. My face was affected by the drugs and I thought ‘Wow, you have to do something about this’.”

In his Surry Hills terrace, shaven, clothed and owning an X-Box, Oliver credits the program for saving his life.

While at the house, he has weekly counselling and has been placed on medication. A life skills coach visits the men to teach cooking, shopping and how to fill out forms.

Raised in a wealthy family, Oliver had a privileged life growing up in Balmain.

The divorce of his parents and the death of his mother set him on the path of drugs and alcohol.

He is unlike his flatmate Tim, who at 41 found himself homeless.

Born in the UK and university-educated, Tim moved to Sydney after falling in love with an Australian woman 10 years ago.

But the relationship disintegrated and for Tim, who had always suffered depression and anxiety, the situation became life or death. With no friends or family to lean on, he found himself at St Vincent’s begging for help.

Neither own too much but the house comes with sheets, towels and utensils for a small fee.

Since they moved in, Tim has found part-time work and Oliver has taken up playing the guitar again and goes busking, earning extra cash.

In time, both hope to move out and live with other people, find full-time work and start afresh.

Watch out for the updated Red Ark website 0

Posted on February 16, 2010 by Liz Rowell

Liz Rowell and George Clooney

Should be with us all today….. well actually it’s Red Ark website 2.1 (I hate to write 2.0) now, with 2.2 expected in the next few days. Hooray. In the meantime, here’s my compatibility check with George Clooney

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